Homily from Father Cusick
Solemnity of the Epiphany
Posted for January 3, 2016
Isaiah 60, 1-6; Psalm 72; Ephesians 3, 2-3.5-6; Matthew 2, 1-12
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
MERRY CHRISTMASTIDE. By longstanding sacred tradition Christians celebrate Christmas as a season, with the twelve days between Christmas and the Epiphany as one long “Christmas day.” The season ends with the Baptism of the Lord. Christmas celebrations with friends and family, decorations, and all of the other means of rejoicing, should continue throughout the season. We can never rejoice in the Lord’s birth too much. As Christians, we will very often find ourselves living in contradiction to the styles and preferences of the present age. We should get very much used to the fact that we will face conflict among friends, and even at times within families, as we seek, more generously and more regularly, to live out and celebrate the mysteries of our redemption in Christ Jesus.
Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary’s womb because he is the New Adam, who inaugurates the new creation: ‘The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.’ (1 Cor 15:45, 47) From his conception, Christ’s humanity is filled with the Holy Spirit, for God ‘gives him the Spirit without measure.’ (Jn 3:34) From ‘his fullness’ as the head of redeemed humanity ‘we have all received, grace upon grace.’ (Jn 1:16) (CCC 504)
“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”(Is 60:1) Isaiah the prophet describes the glory of Jesus Christ, who is “full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father”(Jn 1:14), our Messiah. The prophet also foretells the reality of those first three wise men, who represent the kings and the peoples of the whole earth, all of whom are called to realize their full dignity as sons and daughters of God in worship and praise of him for his glory and goodness. “Above you the Lord now rises and above you his glory appears. The nations come to your light and kings to your dawning brightness.” (Is 60:2-3)
The Father’s only Son, conceived as man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is ‘Christ,’ that is to say, anointed by the Holy Spirit, from the beginning of his human existence, though the manifestation of this fact takes place only progressively: to the shepherds, to the magi, to John the Baptist, to the disciples. Thus the whole life of Jesus Christ will make manifest ‘how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.’ (Acts 10:38) (CCC 486)
You and I, and all of mankind must, like the shepherds, the magi, St. John and the disciples, come before the Lord in his humble birth at Christmas, and worship him with all of our hearts, minds, souls and strength.
You and I will be seen as acceptable and pleasing to God to the extent that, in Christ, we grow in our praise and worship of him, generously, with our whole being. How do we praise and worship God? Christ is our model and our means. Christ has set down through example and precept the ways in which we live the Christian life.
The ancient “way” of Christian life is repentance and belief in the Gospel, practically and profoundly realized in the sacramental life. The sacraments are the “Epiphany” or manifestation of the Lord for every human being. In the sacraments the whole “glory” of Christ “shines out” so that all nations may fall down in praise before the Lord. Christians, from the first foundation of the Church, have met and known Christ through the words of forgiveness in Confession: “Go, your sins are forgiven you.” And from the beginning, as we do today, Christians have met Christ in the gift of His body and blood in the Eucharist, and have fallen down in worship of Him, our God. “This is my body…this is my blood.” This is the greatest of all the sacraments, the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Let us be ever more generous in our expressions of reverential worship of the Lord. Do we approach Christ at communion with all the reverence, love and worship due to God? Do we observe appropriate silence in Church so that a spirit of prayer may be fostered? Are we distracted, or a source of distraction for others, during Mass? Do we observe the proper postures and practices of the liturgy? Do we chew gum in Church? Do we observe the hour-long fast prior to receiving Communion?
We prepare for the joy of heaven, where will live as the praise of God’s glory forever and ever, by the way we approach the Lord as he manifests himself in the “Epiphany” which is every Mass.
I look forward to meeting you here again next week as, together, we “meet Christ in the liturgy”, Father Cusick
Solemnity of the Epiphany: The Gifts We Bring
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord. It is not the conclusion of the Christmas Season, that comes next Sunday, but it is one of the most beautiful of the celebrations of the Christmas Season. The word Epiphany means a manifestation of the Lord. The Church sees three initial manifestations of his presence to the world: the visit of the magi, the Baptism of the Lord, and the Wedding Feast of Cana. Our Greek Orthodox neighbors consider all three manifestations in their one celebration of January 6th. In the Roman Catholic Church we divide these over the next week or so.
Of all the celebrations of the Christmas season, the Epiphany with its visit of the three wise men has captured the imagination of many creative writers and deep thinkers. I enjoy telling Henry Van Dyke’s story of The Fourth Wise Man, O Henry’s story of The Gift of the Magi, and G. K. Chesterton’s story of the modern wise men. I had it in my mind for the last week or so that I wanted to focus on the gifts the wise men brought. This led me to finding an Epiphany story I had not heard before. I decided to rewrite it and share it with you today.
The Epiphany gospel is a continuation of the Christmas story in Matthew’s prologue to his gospel (chapters 1-2). The prologue is a theological masterpiece in narrative form through which Matthew anticipates the major historical events he will present in his gospel to explain the significance of Jesus for us.
The names of Jesus are revealed: Messiah, King, Son of David, Son of Abraham, Emmanuel (God with us). As Son of Abraham, Jesus fulfills the divine promise that in Abraham’s seed “all the nations of the earth will find blessing” (Gn 22:18). The miracle of the virginal conception heralds the beginning of the climactic end-time of sacred history. The gentile nations as foretold by the prophet Isaiah come to the New Zion with their treasures to praise the Lord. Jesus will be rejected by many, will suffer persecution and death, but will ultimately triumph through the Father’s providential care in the resurrection.
The Epiphany of the Lord, Year C—Sunday, January 3, 2016
In today’s Gospel, magi “from the east” ask, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?” Just by asking this question, they herald the New Light that has dawned on all men.
Gospel (Read Mt 2:1-12)
Today, St. Matthew tells us that after Jesus’ birth, an event loaded with significance for the whole world took place. “Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem,” looking for a king who had been recently born, the “king of the Jews.” Who were these men, and why did they ask this question?
The Little Way and Christmas
Instead of choosing the learned, perfect and proud figures of our time to bring about the greatest good; God chooses the small, imperfect and weak souls. It is in the weakness of these souls that God is able to work the most beautiful of miracles. This is the reason why He chose people like Saint Thérèse of Lisieux and (Saint) Teresa of Calcutta to be His instruments of love in the world and why God came into the world as a baby.
Words Fail – Another Meditation on Silence Before the Mysteries of this Christmas Week
Though I wrote last week of holy silence, something urges me (a man of many words) to write of it again. During Mass today, the words of Zechariah came to my mind:
Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord … Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling (Zechariah 2:11, 13).
There is a common idiom: “Words fail me.” It is in this context that we can best understand God’s call to fall silent before the mystery of the Lord’s incarnation. Notice in the passage above that the call to silence follows the call to “sing and rejoice.”
The Arms of Christ Outstretched this Christmas
Mary sees in the face of her child the tears of God and the joy of humanity. Hungrily having clung with unquenchable thirst to her breast in our cold darkness, in every challenge she sees Him ready to teach us how to cling to Him in faith. He at once envelops us in the abyss of his love when we see how He allowed her to wrap Him in swaddling clothes. At home with the poor and all those for whom there is no room in society, she ponders how He leads us to our true home in the bosom of the Trinity. She has always welcomed these unfamiliar gifts with awe, adoration, and selfless acts of mercy. Her example lights the way for us to discover how to rejoice in these troubled times.
The Mercy of God is a Mystery
The Mercy of God is a mystery. Even for someone like me who has had it poured into my life for the last five years. I keep trying to figure out how exactly to explain it, but the truth is that I can’t. I lived a life that was so enslaved to sin and yet, here I sit as a Catholic who has a personal and loving relationship with God, the Creator of the Universe. How does anyone even begin to explain that? How can anyone explain the Mercy of God? How we walk into a confessional and admit our faults with contrition and resolve to sin no more with the HELP of God Himself. It is crazy and illogical because God loves us irrationally.
Mercy and Spiritual Fatherhood
“Merciful like the Father” is the motto of the Year of Mercy. What a great reminder for our fatherless culture! What a great challenge and reminder for men on how to live as spiritual fathers.
Fatherlessness is a worldwide pandemic (43% in the US), devastating the culture, family, children, and men in particular, making it harder to experience God as love or to even hear about God. With the sustained Marxist and feminist attacks on the family, marriage, and gender, it does not look as if things will improve anytime soon. But the world’s greatest need right now is to experience the Father’s mercy to undo the effects of fatherlessness.
Peter, do you love me?
Sometime around, oh, 3300 years ago, Moses leaned out from Mt. Nebo in Jordan – as I just did a few days ago – and looked over into the Promised Land. Paul VI, St. John Paul II, and Benedict XVI made a point of going there as well. Because from that commanding height, the panorama of subsequent religious history, a history we still remember as no other, is spread out: from the Dead Sea in the South to the Sea of Galilee in the North, with Jericho in the center (a city in Moses’ day already 8000 years old), and just beyond, Jerusalem.
Poor Moses. He faced down Pharaoh, kept the stiff-necked Israelites together (more or less) for forty years in the desert, and even came down from Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments. But was forbidden to go any farther. He died and was buried, somewhere unknown, on Mt. Nebo.
Is Heaven a Place or State of Being or Both?
Dear Father John, I read recently that the late Cardinal George, God rest his soul, said that heaven is not a place. I’ve also heard this mentioned elsewhere. I have a good understanding of what Jesus said about the kingdom of heaven being within you, among you, etc. But, it seems to me that saying heaven is not a place denies the bodily Ascension of Christ into heaven (and the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Mother for that matter). We say in the Creed “He ascended into Heaven.” So, what is heaven? Is it a state of being, a place, or both? I think it is both, by the way, but I would like to hear the “official” Church position. Thank you and God bless you!
The Meaning of the Lord’s Origins
If someone in Capharnaum or Jerusalem at the time had asked the Lord: Who are you? Who are your parents? To what house do you belong? – He might have answered in the words of St. John’s gospel: “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I am.” (8:58) Or he might have pointed out that he was “of the house and family of David.” (Luke 2:4)
Our Heavenly Father Loves to Give Gifts to His Children
The timing was right. Last year he was too young but this year it was just right. He had tried out this particular bike at the store but never asked to take it home. He said he knew Santa would get it if it was for him. That was that and we left the store.
Later that day the bike was purchased. It was so easy to dig deep and squeeze that bike into the Christmas budget. On Christmas Eve the shiny red bike stood next to the Christmas tree adorned with a big bow and a note from Santa about having Daddy get him just the right helmet. The pure joy in giving the gift of that first big kid bike to a child… Not many things in life touch this feeling of excitement in a parent’s heart. The heart that anticipates how much the gift will be enjoyed by that particular child as he goes round and round the driveway with a sunny smile on his face.
Mary’s Simple and Amazing Guide to Discipleship
God approached a young woman, and she said, “Yes.”
Next, what she didn’t say was even more noteworthy. She didn’t say, “I will do this.”
Instead, she said, “Let it be done unto me.”
And then she thanked God for allowing her to be the one with whom He would give flesh to the most remarkable intrusion of divinity into human time: Jesus Christ.
The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary
This is the third installment in our series on the Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary. Today we look at the Sorrowful Mysteries, those Mysteries which help us to meditate upon the suffering that Jesus underwent for our salvation.
St. John the Apostle
ST. JOHN, the youngest of the apostles in age, was called to follow Christ on the banks of the Jordan during the first days of Our Lord’s ministry. He was one of the privileged few present at the Transfiguration and the Agony in the garden. At the Last Supper his head rested on the bosom of Jesus, and in the hours of the Passion, when others fled or denied their Master, St. John kept his place by the side of Jesus, and at the last stood by the cross with Mary.
How Can I Grow in Virtue? (Part II of II)
Dear Father John, I am trying to be a better person but I need a little help. I know virtues are important, but I don’t know how to get better at them. How can I become more virtuous?
How Much Should I Pray?
In our post-modern, secularized culture, growth in prayer requires commitment and discipline—remember, we are to love God with all our mind andstrength, not only when we happen to feel like it. The basic staples that Christians should include in their spiritual diet include daily, weekly, and seasonal commitments. These will change, vary, and develop as our relationship with God deepens, but here is a sensible starting guideline.
All That is Visible and Invisible
(Warning! The following book review contains spoilers.)
Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, which won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize and has spent over 80 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list, is one of the most beautiful and finely-crafted novels I have ever read. His language is spell-binding, even incantatory, and the intertwined narratives that he composes are deeply involving. Doerr delicately weaves together the stories of Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a blind French girl, and Werner Pfennig an albino German boy, which unfold during the awful years of the Second World War.
The Manifold Works of Mercy
On December 8, the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the second Vatican Council as well as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis inaugurated a special Year of Mercy.
There are many ways in which we can celebrate this holy moment in the history of the Church. In particular, we can undertake more fervent practice of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In our time, much attention is paid to the corporal works of mercy, such as feeding the hungry and visiting the sick and imprisoned. These hold a special place in the Holy Father’s heart, and it is always a good idea to extend your practice of these works.
But the spiritual works of mercy are relatively neglected these days, even though they also offer very fruitful ground for celebrating this Year of Mercy. These are: to admonish the sinner; to instruct the ignorant; to counsel the doubtful; to comfort the sorrowful; to bear wrongs patiently; to forgive all injuries; and to pray for the living and the dead.
Give It Away, But Give It Some Thought
Last week, Zoe Romanowsky made the sensible call to “stop giving our junk to the poor.” She asked us to ask ourselves:
Does what you’re putting in that box honor the people it will go to? Is it your junk, or is it a sacrificial gift?
She challenges us to ask ourselves if we are giving sacrificially, to help the poor, or are we giving just to get rid of stuff, to help ourselves; and to ask ourselves if we’re giving away stuff that will make the poor happy, or if we’re giving stuff that seems good enough for them, because they are poor, and we are not.
Thanks to My Cancer, This May Be One of Our Best Christmases Ever
The House district that I represented for 18 years is more than a bit incomprehensible to outsiders. And by outsiders, I mean anyone and everyone who didn’t spawn in the pond that both I and the people I represented are from.
I remember trying to explain to another legislator why my constituents reacted to issues as they did. His constituents were constantly in a kerfuffle over whatever hot-button issue du jour was rocking the world at the time. My constituents were steady on about these things. They just trusted my judgment and let me have at it in those areas.
But there were things that they would not abide. Fortunately for me, my constituents and I were one in all this. We thought and, more importantly, felt, alike because we were woven of the same threads.
My colleague didn’t “get” this. It was opaque to him and I wasn’t sure how to explain it so that he could understand.
When (Righteous) Anger is Justified
In one of my favorite Flannery O’Connor stories, Revelation, Mrs. Turpin—a very large, very cheerful, and heartily judgmental soul—amuses herself by mentally sorting people into their respective categories. She places all the people she looks down upon beneath herself and her husband, and only those who have more of what she and her husband have go on the top of the list. When I was a kid listening to my Dad read Flannery O’Connor out loud, Revelation merely made me laugh. Now I read it and wonder “Oh Lord. Have I become Mrs. Turpin?”